CHOP patients get dolled up for prom

Rachel Kovach, 11, of Highlands, N.J., is all dressed up for the fifth annual prom at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. She has been chronicling her care for a rare bone tumor by blogging at www.philly.com/OncoGirl. With her are parents Mari and Kurt Kovach.
Rachel Kovach, 11, of Highlands, N.J., is all dressed up for the fifth annual prom at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. She has been chronicling her care for a rare bone tumor by blogging at www.philly.com/OncoGirl. With her are parents Mari and Kurt Kovach. (LAURENCE KESTERSON / Staff Photographer)
Posted: May 13, 2011

The prom was a sparkling spectacle of tiaras, tuxes, DJs, and dancing.

No matter that many of the 100 pint-size attendees sported wheelchairs, intravenous poles, bandages, and bald heads.

One prom-goer, Rachel Kovach, 11, of Highlands, N.J., has been chronicling her care for a rare bone tumor by blogging for The Inquirer at www.philly.com/OncoGirl. She had major surgery to salvage her right leg May 3 and resumed intravenous chemotherapy Thursday just hours before the prom.

By Thursday afternoon, Rachel was too tired to blog, but still found time to "shop" for a prom dress from inventory donated for the affair.

"She finally settled on the perfect yellow gown," reported her mother, Mari Kovach. "Then she had her makeup and nails done by a professional volunteer. You should have seen her face light up as she looked into the mirror."

Thursday's fifth annual prom at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia was a rollicking affair that attracted 350 people.

Parents could escort their dolled-up darlings down the red carpet, under the balloon arch, and into the ballroom (also known as the cafeteria), where waiters served sparkling cider and kid-friendly food.

"It's bigger and better than ever," said Jeff Kahan, the man who was primarily responsible for making it so.

Kahan and his wife, Michele, of Voorhees, created the Joshua Kahan Fund in honor of their son, who died of leukemia in 1997 just shy of his third birthday.

Over the last 13 years, the fund has raised more than $2 million for research at Children's, including the creation of the hospital's first endowed research position dedicated to pediatric leukemia, Kahan said.

The fund also has brought one of its primary goals - smiles - to countless cancer patients. Every month, Kahan arranges to have Big Bird, Ernie, Cookie Monster, or another Sesame Street icon visit the oncology wing before returning to Sesame Place near Langhorne.

"We visit every child, give them a toy, and take a picture," said Kahan, vice president of sales for KIDdesigns, a toymaker in Rahway, N.J.

Aided by Children's Child Life Department, Kahan distributes brand-new suits and dresses donated by Calvin Klein, Peerless Clothing, and other companies.

"We also have a table full of jewelry and tiaras," he said. "Every girl can come and get her nails, makeup, and hair done. Whether she has hair or not."

- Marie McCullough

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